If a midlife crisis is affecting your marriage, you may see some of the following signs: Are you withdrawing from your intimate other because things seem empty? Do you find yourself feeling that you have been there and done that and you’re not just dying to get out of the bed in the morning?
When you get to work, do you find yourself wishing you had something different to do and not using your usual commitment to getting things done? When you get home do you get lost on one of your screens and don’t talk much to your family.
Do you have trouble telling your friends about your life because, frankly, there’s just not that much to say?
Guess what, you may have a full-blown midlife crisis affecting your marriage.
Some people find the perfect niche to do exactly what they can find meaning in doing for a lifetime. Most of us are not so lucky.
I remember directing the Counseling Center in Bronxville and loving the recognition that the position gave me in the community. I was creating a space for people of all income levels to seek help at various levels of income.
But then I hit a wall. I realized that I did not want to raise any more money from these wonderful people who had shown up our fundraisers to support our mission. The administration of the details of running a center no longer rang my chimes.
I began to see firsthand how the lack of inner enthusiasm could become dark glasses through which I saw less and less excitement. I began to see as well how it colored my relationships, especially my marriage.
So let me explain ways that your marriage will feel the impact of a time when your psyche is screaming that you need a mid-course correction.
Here are several signs that midlife crisis is affecting your marriage…
You will find yourself feeling heavy and lethargic.
Some may even tell you that you’re depressed. You will at times just wonder if it’s worth it. You will have little or no energy to do the things that your lover wants you to do. Keeping up with your kids may feel like a burden that you want to pass on to our helpmate.
You may even find less interest in sex. Somehow you may find yourself going to bed late or early, definitely at a different time from your spouse.
You may find yourself going to work late or calling in sick
Of course, your best friend at home will feel concern about what’s going on. You may find yourself bristling and hearing only criticism. You may demand that everyone just leave you alone, and you just need your man cave.
When you spouse utters those fateful words, “We need to talk,” you may find yourself wanting to do anything but. Why, because you may not be sure what is going on.
Think of the teenager who is breaking away from his parents’ rules and values and seeking to pursue her own values and interests. She may not know what she wants to do yet, but she is sure that her parents would not understand if she did.
When your wife says to you, “What’s wrong?” and you draw a blank. If you knew, you wouldn’t be staring off into space so much.
Yes, you may even break down and buy that sports car.
While others may smile with amusement, you know you want the excitement and the thrill of the acceleration as your silver bullet hugs the ground. Or you may find looking for other forms of distraction such as getting caught up in an obsession with sports.
Drinking or drugs may become major temptation
One part of you knows that you are zoning out. You may not realize that you can’t face the feelings of what it would mean to contemplate something new and different. For too long, people have seen you as a certain kind of guy who works in this kind of world, and they may have trouble imagining something different. You tend to think of your options in a very narrow way.
The money constraints and the risks loom too large to consider creating a new world for yourself. Who knows if you will be marketable in any other sphere?
You May Become Intrigued With Persons Other Than Your Spouse
You may or may not have crossed a line here. But paying attention to early warning signs can save your marriage. If you have become bored, feel a bit down with a sense that’s nothing to look forward to, you are vulnerable.
You will find yourself looking for some excitement and find yourself sharing your deeper stuff with someone else. If you begin to do things that your beloved would look askance at, you can bet that you’re about to lose your head.
The seduction of falling in love when you’re in a midlife crisis will lead you down a dangerous path People who know you well, your spouse or even yourself would never guess that you could slip into this kind temptation, much less throw caution to the winds.
If some, or most of these things, ring true, it’s time to face the truth, don’t despair, there are ways to course-correct and get your life (and marriage) back on track.
You may have by chance happened across this article because you suspected that you might be drowning in a midlife crisis. Someone may have thrust this in your face to wake you up. Don’t kill the messenger. Work through your resentment at being called out and catch up with yourself.
To get on the right side of healing, consider doing the following 6 steps…
- Review the signs mentioned above.
Invite yourself to be a bit amused that you too are human. The time has come, and you are due for a new alignment. Even though the signs are classic and you would snicker at someone so described at a cocktail party, you still deserve compassion.Be gentle and understand that you had not realized how being in the same job and doing the same old thing had become downright depressing. Treat this time as a soul call waking you up to appreciate that at this age and stage you may be on the cusp of finding a much better use of your time and talents.
- Have a little Humility
If you observed this in your best friend, whom you know valued his marriage; you would put your arm around him, take him aside and have a talk. He would not need to a lecture but simply to hear that you can pick up the signs and are concerned. That’s what friends are for.Whether you have had suspicions about yourself or someone has confronted you (including your spouse), take time to let the anger pass. Your anger covers your sense of vulnerability. Lashing out may cut you off from needed support.
- Take time to catch up with your values
Instead, step back to assess whether, in the middle of your life’s journey, you have found yourself in a dark wood” to paraphrase the beginning words of Dante’s Divine Comedy.Let yourself conceive of the possibility that you are zoning out because you feel hesitant to change the course of your life. Do you really want to drink too much, crash that sports car, or jeopardize your family with an affair?
With the odds high on your spouse finding out, (at least that’s my experience as an extramarital affair specialist), are you ready to face the anger, hurt, and resentment and betrayal your spouse will feel?
Let me encourage you to think of this as an order and sequence issue. Wouldn’t you rather discover what you want to do, bring your partner on board and save your family?
- Consider stepping up to the plate and finding help
Have sympathy that it might feel easier to zone out than to do the hard work of discovering who you are and what you are capable of becoming. You may need to see a career counselor or a therapist to help you to discover something that will give you a profound sense of meaning.I often find it useful to ask the question: “If you had ultimate courage and money were no object, what would you want to do with the rest of your life?” Without the concerns of money and anxiety, you may begin to focus on a deeper inner longing.
Let your mind roam to all kinds of things that you have done in the past and found that they were well received and came easily to you like falling off a log. What did you love to wake up in the morning to do? Of course, you are stuck at the moment, because you do have fears, and you are not sure if you could afford your dreams.
I have on my office wall, the poet Mary Oliver’s quote, “Tell me what you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” If you have read this far, I want you to drop down and let yourself ponder. If you don’t know, then you have some homework to do.
You will find the task both daunting and yet in time exhilarating. Don’t get lost in distractions. Commit yourself to this time of soul searching. Discovering a side of you, that’s bursting to emerge, often seems easier when an adoring new face admires your every thought. Part of you knows that that path creates a form of cheap grace.
You’re not doing your soul work to find your unique place in this stage of your life. Finding your way out of the dark wood requires that you recognize the place you are in and that you dive in with all of the gusto that you can muster.
- Create a sacred time each day to being journaling
Maybe you have thought this was for sissies or maybe you have thought this entailed too much navel-gazing. Get over it. You need it.Taking time to catch up with your thoughts (early in the morning if you can) will help you notice what matters and what counts to you. If you find yourself bored with what comes up at first, you may begin to experience your inner world-weariness. Writing the same old things will get to you and will stimulate the energy to initiate some changes.
Journaling becomes a way of setting your intentions As you write you will find it helps you to create a to-do list with a sense of purpose behind it. As you get into the rhythm of it, you will notice the time of reflection becomes a habit. What better way to catch up with what will lead you out of your maze.
- Trust your vulnerability with your spouse
As I mentioned earlier, you may fear that your beloved could not understand the emerging possibilities that you are considering. His fears and fixed image of you may make him less than enthusiastic. A different spouse may hesitate to support what feels like to her like a pipe dream.If you find this to be the case, consider bringing a marriage counselor into the picture to help you strengthen your sense of where you are going. You will need to learn to communicate your longing and what these new thoughts mean to you.
All too often, as you know, many people first share their vision with a person at work. This unfolding of your dreams could lead to a kind of closeness that leads to dangerous intimacy. The feeling that someone understands and supports you feel so different from what you fear may happen at home.
Hopefully, at home, you will take a risk and share with your intimate other the journey you are beginning to undertake. As your help mate, you will the support of the best cheerleader that you will find who believes in who you are and what you can become.
Reach for that and if you find yourself stuck, reach out to a marriage counselor to build the bond and partnership that you will need to build a new life.
Dr. Jim Walkup, a seasoned licensed marriage counselor, works with couples to create a meaningful relationship in times when a midlife crisis begins to eat away at the heart of their marriage. His compassionate approach will help you avoid the pitfalls of this stage and build a relationship to last a lifetime. Call Dr. Jim at 914 548 8645 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.If you do not live in New York City or Westchester, New York; you can find a referral at AAMFT.org